Chris Claremont came to Marvel as a young man, and was assigned a book that no one else wanted, a book on the brink of cancellation: X-Men. Over the next 17 years, his work on the title turned it into the biggest franchise in comic book history. Forty years later, his work has been adapted into ten films, three TV series, countless video games and has become a part of our cultural mythology. But, it all started with one writer and his commitment to emotionally honest storytelling and real character building.
Chris Claremont’s X-Men sees an extended version released this week, a documentary exploring the influential creator’s run and impact. Taking us from his childhood to his exit from the X-Men, the film is an interesting exploration that provides a lot of insight into the creator’s run and why it was both successful and such a big deal.
Featuring interviews with Clarmont, Ann Nocenti, Louise Simonson, and more, secrets are revealed into what went on behind the scenes, both good and bad. The documentary also features interviews with the likes of Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, and hard-core fans who share about the impact on them and dish on some of what went on towards the end.
But, what’s interesting is director Patrick Meaney‘s narrative which feels like it organically came out of the interviews. We see how Claremont saved these characters and drove them to stardom but how that success eventually drove Claremont off of the titles as well. Success brought the need for greater commercial reach which then drove the narrative creating a cycle that feels like it’s plagued comics today in many ways.
And, there’s an honesty about it all. Claremont, Nocenti, and Simonson don’t hold back discussing the good and the bad. Their time on the screen feels like friends together reminiscing about this amazing thing they’ve done. Through their recounting of history, we also get to see how much of modern comics spun out of this series in multiple ways, from talent working today to those behind the scenes. That’s in addition to the world of the X-Men coming to the big and small screen in multiple ways.
Claremont helped launch all of that.
The documentary is low-fi. There’s no fancy graphics or transitions and the shots are pretty basic in production but there’s something charming about that. It’s raw in many ways. There’s use of cosplayers (and unfortunately one of those cosplayers has been accused of horrible things) for transitions which brings down the product a little, but overall, you’re watching this for the history not the production value.
The documentary is fantastic taking the viewer into the important history of the X-Men and Chris Claremont’s hand in all of it. It captures the history, both good and bad, presenting it all without commentary from the director, instead this is history in the own words of people who lived it and were there.
Overall Rating: 8.0